Kentucky Moves to Repeal Nuclear Moratorium

Published May 1, 2009

The Kentucky Senate has approved a bill to end a moratorium on new nuclear power facilities in the state. Senate Bill 13 would repeal a law requiring a permanent federal storage facility become operational before any new nuclear power plants can be built.

Strong Support for Change

The legislative moratorium on nuclear power plant construction took effect in 1984, with Kentucky joining many other states enacting similar moratoria. In recent years, however, several states have repealed or considered repealing them. Only 10 states currently have a moratorium on nuclear power plant construction.

SB 13, sponsored by Sen. Bob Leeper (I-Paducah), garnered strong bipartisan support, passing the Senate by a vote of 29 to 6. It was approved 12 to 6 by the House Tourism Development and Energy Committee and is awaiting action by the full House.

Cost-Effective Emissions Cuts

Jack Spencer, an energy analyst at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, believes SB 13’s passage would be a positive development for Kentucky that could ultimately lower energy prices for the state.

“Without question this is an encouraging sign. Each state needs to decide what energy they want to use. I happen to believe nuclear power is a very successful form of energy use. [SB 13’s passage] is a great benefit to Kentucky that at least says they are putting nuclear back on the table,” Spencer said.

“There are 104 commercial nuclear plants in America, and approximately 100 military nuclear energy facilities,” Spencer added. “Nuclear is the cheapest and one of the safest energy forms available.”

Federal Intervention Skews Markets

Steven Kerekes of the Nuclear Energy Institute says if Kentucky really wants to reduce its reliance on coal-fired power plants without imposing drastic energy price increases on state consumers, the state will soon be building a nuclear power facility.

“There is a lot of talk about curbing carbon emissions, and the Obama administration has been talking about an expensive cap-and-trade program. Any cap-and-trade program will increase the costs of coal-fired power plants,” Kerekes said.

“New designs of nuclear power facilities have increased the margins of safety significantly,” Kerekes added. “We in the nuclear energy field recognize that this is an important issue, and we urge people who raise it to see that we have increased safety dramatically.”

“A lot of people are choosing to focus on nuclear energy construction projects because the reality is there is a lot of government intervention in the coal energy sector,” Spencer observed. “If President Obama’s cap-and-trade program passes, it will be even harder to construct coal energy plants. Certainly in the Southeast, there is going to be a dramatic need for some good, cheap electricity without carbon emissions.

“This is an emerging trend,” said Spencer. “You have states across the country looking at nuclear energy construction.”

Kerekes agreed.

“It is no secret that states, because of what is happening on the national level, are now talking about nuclear energy,” said Kerekes.

Thomas Cheplick ([email protected]) writes from Cambridge, Massachusetts.